Mastered by Ray Staff at Air London & Pressed at Pallas Germany / Sides C & D featuring Alternative Takes Available on Vinyl for the First Time with This Reissue
Black, Brown, & Beige is Duke Ellington's musical representation of the African American experience in the U.S. It is arguably the Maestro's greatest work. The triumph of telling so important a story so well through music alone makes Black, Brown, & Beige a true masterpiece. It also displays Duke's, and jazz's, highest achievement in long form. Whether you perceive it as a three movement symphony or accept Ellington's own personalized terminology 'Tone Parallel', Black, Brown, & Beige matches conceptually and in artistic content the musical continuity of Western classical's greatest names in their lengthiest works.
The history of Black, Brown, & Beige is in its own right momentous. Ellington premiered the work at Carnegie Hall on January 23, 1943, at his first performance on that illustrious stage. The Maestro created the "Come Sunday Suite." Ellington basically reduced his three movement work to its first, "Black," elevating that movement's spiritual theme, "Come Sunday," making it the melody of the edited work. Truncating the symphony "Black, Brown, & Beige" into the song "Come Sunday" works because Duke has expanded "Come Sunday" through numerous theme and variations unknown to the original. The piece de resistance: a sacred text, by Duke himself, a text sung by the best known African-American religious singer in history, Mahalia Jackson. There is no doubt that it is the presence and performance of Jackson which secures a home in the pantheon for this recasting of Black, Brown, & Beige, a work that already resided there.
And Ellington pulled off this coup with one hand tied behind his back, or without the services of his right hand man. Overlooked over the years since the album Black, Brown, & Beige was recorded in February 1958 is the absence of Johnny Hodges (Hodges did a gig with Strayhorn in Florida during this period), the Ellington band's premier soloist. The sides C & D are released on vinyl for the first time with this reissue and feature a plethora of alternative takes.